The Perfect Match

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Gear
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The fallacy of one-size-fits-all is especially apparent when it comes to skis. They're like jeans: You won't enjoy wearing them unless they fit just right. Call women picky, but we prefer to call it smart shopping.

For the SKI Magazine women's ski test, we recruit instructors from the Aspen and Beaver Creek ski schools. Perhaps more than anyone, instructors see the good, the bad and the ugly of equipment and technique every day. And instructors at these ski schools in particular cater to a clientele that is, shall we say, not low-maintenance. So as testers they are attuned to what women want¿and don't want¿from their skis.

What we want are skis that allow us to mix it up throughout the day with a little bit of everything, from carving and cruising to bumps and powder. What we don't want is to cart around a whole quiver of skis. If one ski does everything you ask of it and even urges you to do more, so much the better.

Women who want it all in one package are in luck, because at this year's test, versatility won. There were very few one-trick ponies¿and none among these medalists.

Tester Noel Lyons, who never seems to slow down (and whose eclectic skiing resume includes World Cup racing, competitive free-skiing, even skiercross), says it was the forgiveness of this year's women's skis that she liked most: "They allow you to ski according to your mood, without slacking on performance. You can go mellow, or you can really get after them and give them a hard time."

We test skis in two categories. In All-Mountain Cruiser we look for skis that deliver fun and forgiveness¿perfect for a leisurely day on the groomed, but ready to keep up (and help you improve) when you push your abilities. In All-Mountain Expert, we expect pure performance, but with enough versatility to take you anywhere, in any conditions. Here are the best of the bunch.

TESTERS
Linda Blomquist Veteran Aspen, Colo., instructor; Level III, fully certified.
Roberta Boyd Manager of Beaver Creek, Colo., adaptive ski program.
Kristi Brown Four-year member, University of Vermont ski team.
Noel Lyons Former U.S. Ski Team member and World Extreme Skiing champion.
Ann Nelson Beaver Creek instructor.
Monique Pelletier Two-time Olympian; nine-year member of the U.S. Ski Team.
Nicole Pelletier Sun Valley, Idaho, racing coach; 1993 NCSA slalom champ.
Bridget Rayward President, New Zealand Ski Instructors Alliance (NZSIA); five-time New Zealand Extreme Skiing champ.
Sarah Richardson PSIA Rocky Mountain examiner; Aspen instructor.
Kathy Ryan Beaver Creek Women's Program coordinator.
Trish Schreiber Aspen instructor and instructor-trainer for women's seminars.
Joan Valentine Aspen instructor-trainer; technical director at Coronet Peak/Remarkables ski resort in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Becky Wilson Aspen instructor; NZSIA examiner and instructor.